European Sculpture 1350 – 1800
The New Permanent Exhibition of the Sculpture Collection
The sculptures of the Museum of Fine Arts, housed in the deposits for the past 25 years, are now presented in newly renovated rooms on the second floor of the museum. The Collection of Sculpture collection includes nearly 650 European artworks covering six centuries of artistic creation from the Middle Ages to 18th-century Classicism. The exhibition encompasses over 100 artworks, from various styles and periods, including German Late-Gothic, Italian Renaissance, and Austrian Baroque.
Among the exhibited masterpieces are German sculptor Tilman Riemenschneider’s (circa 1460-1531) wooden sculpture, referred to as Madonna and Child, Italian architect and sculptor Jacopo Sansovino’s (1486−1570) unique wax sculpture entitled Madonna and Child, and the extraordinary Austrian Baroque sculptor Franz Xaver Messerschmidt’s (1736−1783) Character Heads.In addition to displaying the most celebrated sculptures, the museum’s exhibition also provides insights into the secrets and special production techniques of the workshops. Throughout the centuries, sculptors have experimented with several types of material, including wood, stone, ivory, terracotta, and various alloys of metal. Furthermore, over time artists developed numerous methods for decorating and painting their sculptures and reliefs. Conservators have applied the original methods and traditional materials and techniques to make samples, thus highlighting the important details of the displayed sculptures and enabling the viewer to observe and follow the various stages of the creative process
The painting and decorating of sculptures has always been commonplace, and the Middle Ages saw the emergence of several methods of decorating Gothic sculptures. Painting complemented the realistic and more life-like representation of sculptures, such as can be observed in the South Tyrolean sculptor and painter Leonhard von Brixen’s (mentioned 1440 − 1475/1476, Bressanone) statue of a Beggar. Both the painting and excellent carving method resulted in the more naturalistic style of this sculpture.
During the Gothic period, the backgrounds of shrines and the clothing of saints were generously decorated with gold. This decorative method served a dual purpose; it enhanced the artwork and also symbolized the celestial spheres for religious devotees. On occasion, the gilding was applied together with other techniques such as pastiglia, in order to allow sculptors to better imitate the patterns of decorated silk brocades. In the exhibition the engraved background of Jörg Lederer’s (Füssen, circa 1470 – 1550, Kaufbeuren) winged altarpiece and the figures’ lavishly gilded clothes enhanced the visual effect and was a common practice for decorating late Gothic winged altarpieces. Various patterns were gilded by punching (using special punch tools) and using the sgraffito technique by scratching onto the glazing colour (applied to the gilded surface). These lavishly applied decorations were favored in Netherlandish sculpture, and appeared on the sculptures of the Antwerp workshop of Robert Moreau (mentioned 1532 − 1540).
From the 15th century onward, the favored material of Italian sculpture was clay, which they opted to use in many ways. In the Italian workshops, the first conceptions or sketches of the sculptures were often modelled in clay as well as the small-scale models of the future sculptures commissioned by the clients. One of the sculptures in the collection, by Luca della Robbia (1399/1400−1482), was the group of Christ and Saint Thomas designed for the outer niche of the Orsanmischele Church in Florence. [link]
Fired clay, so-called terracotta, was often painted and used for making sculptures and reliefs. Italian sculptor Luca della Robbia developed the glazed terracotta technique in the early 1440s. This shiny and coloured terracotta soon became very popular in Florence. Both the Robbia and later the Buglioni workshop produced numerous glazed terracottas, some of them are on display in the present exhibition.
In Renaissance Italy, both clay and wax were used to create sketches and models. Due to the fragile nature of wax, only just a few artworks have survived; one of them is Jacopo Sansovino’s (1486-1570) gilded wax Madonna statuette, made as a model for a larger marble statue.
Supposedly, a small wax model was originally used to cast the most famous statuette of the collection, the Rearing Horse and Mounted Warrior attributed to Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519).
Renaissance sculpture was greatly influenced by antique art, an impact that later resulted in the widespread custom of casting bronze sculptures and plaquettes in the Italian cities of Florence, Venice, and Padua. The small bronze statuette of the Rape of Europa, attributed to Andrea Riccio (1470-1532), illustrates the development of the bronze casting process at the end of the 15th century and the contemporary taste of humanist circles in Padua.
After the casting process, the small bronzes were patinated, a technique which gave a bright and coloured surface to bronzes. From the end of the 16th century, the Florentine bronze casting workshops predominantly focused on the process of patination and developed a special golden brown colour, which later became widespread in northern Europe. Thus, the mentioned varieties of brown appeared not only in Florentine bronzes but also in bronzes such as that of the German artist Caspar Gras (1585-1674), who worked for the Hapsburg family in Innsbruck.
The most remarkable masterpieces of the collection are the eleven Austrian Baroque sculptures by artist Franz Xaver Messerschmidt (1736−1783). Messerschmidt’s busts with grimacing faces, the so-called Character Heads, were outstanding in the history of sculpture. Three of them are housed in the Museum of Fine Arts and can be seen in the present exhibition. Messerschmidt’s other small-scale medallions, preserved in the collection, are also on display.
Curator: Miriam Szőcs
Assistants of the Curator: Andrea Rózsavölgyi, Katalin Szépvölgyi
Conservators: Eszter Bakonyi, Zsolt Berta, Ildikó Boros, András Czinege, Hunor Egri, János Dávid Rátonyi (†2012), Erika Samu, Péter Szathmáry, Katalin Szépvölgyi
Copies of the Artworks: Salisbury Kft. (Ádám Vecsey), Katalin Szépvölgyi, Péter Véninger
Installation and Graphic Design: Narmer Architecture Studio − Ágnes Eiszrich, Petra Kováts, István Szigetfű, Ákos Vasáros, Zsolt Vasáros, Ágnes Véner, Renáta Zsarnóczky
Organization: Zsuzsa Hudák, Sára Schilling
Technical Coordination: Zulejka László, Zoltán Sütő, Imre Vas
Technical Assistance: Zsolt Berta, Gyula Lakatos, József Mészáros, Imre Németh, Balázs Szabó, Zsolt Szabó, László N. Vásárhelyi
Legal Coordination: Katalin Lapath
Financial Coordination: Enikő Cser, Ágnes Bánóczi Pintérné
Further Assistance: Tibor Barcsik, Judit Borus, Ildikó Csepregi, Sára Fonyódi, Andrew T. Gane, Zoltán Kárpáti, Adriána Lantos, Zoltán Lévay, Ágnes Megyeri, Dávid Remsey, Anna Schlett, Csanád Szesztay, Zsolt Vidák
Sponsors of the Exhibition: